Friday, August 5, 2011
i am not at the world yo-yo contest.
as i type the words, my hands twitch a little, my lip curls in an involuntary grimace, and i exhale with a melancholy i can not withhold. i watched the feed tonight and last; got to see my friend hank become world champion in 3a... got to see samm scott, with whom i've traded tricks for years, get 3rd in 5a... got to see a beautiful performance from sebby! seeing my friends on stage, and getting glimpses of them in the crowd and at the judges table brought me down a bit, i'll admit. i chafe to be away... but i also wouldn't trade the last two weeks to be there.
yesterday afternoon, my minivan rolled into our driveway on a wing and a prayer (ok, more like a slightly-leaky front-right tire and a 0% oil-life alert lamp, but whatever). the fam and i just finished a 5,000-mile trek from our north carolina home to the [semi-]wilds of wyoming, where we camped amidst bears and bison in the badlands, yellowstone & grand teton national parks. we hiked through 103-degree days and slept through 34-degree nights. we saw unbelievable works of man-made art and substantially more unbelievable works of nature-made art. we expected the trip to be cathartic, wonderful, and harrowing... and it did not disappoint.
i'm not sure what compelled my wife, stacy, and me to do it. most of our friends literally responded with laughter when we mentioned our upcoming adventure (about which we were naively excited). when i was a kid, that was what our vacations were. we would pick a direction - usually 'west' - we would start driving, and after a few weeks of whimsical exploring, we'd go home. if my parents ever had 'a plan', they kept it well-hidden. my dad and i would race to put the tent up at rocky, windy KOA's and record our best times. we'd see a sign for a prairie dog home or a giant ball of twine and pull over. at the end of the trip, my brother and i would have arm-long lists of crazy things we'd seen, but it always felt organic and extemporaneous. one of the things i love most about my wife is that she's up for this kind of thing; for spontaneity, and bugs, and dirt; for nurturing fires and driving through the night without a clear sense for when or whether wyoming will ever end.
sitting in a car for thousands of miles can be boring, but there's also something to it that i found invaluable. i've seen so much of my country because of those trips. i sleep well outside and can make a meal out of anything because of those trips (my mom once resorted to ranch dressing sandwiches). i can look out a window engaged for hours while passing the most desolate stretches of kansas or texas because of those trips. cheesy though it may sound, you grow together as a family on this kind of trip too, even if only by virtue of never-ending proximity. passing on those experiences to my own kids has always been the plan.
because of stacy's schedule and my own impending school year, these past two weeks were our only shot for an epic, griswoldian road-trip. although we entertained various schemes of my abandoning ship to fly down from nashville, it gradually became clear that worlds would have to be sacrificed this year. while in the parks, i had no qualms whatsoever. it's hard to have 'qualms' while you're submerged in the waters of a glacial lake or being chased by a buffalo while holding a 3 year-old. it was really only on the drive back that i started to realize: 'damn - i'm gonna miss worlds.' and so began several days of progressively intensifying ho-hummery.
on the trip, i didn't want to be bogged down with a ton of yo-yo stuff. a few years ago, i was totally that guy who would have FOUND room for a 72-star case full of throws, even if it meant i didn't get a sleeping bag. now i realize that quantity is overrated, so while packing, i set aside precisely 1 (one) yo-yo - a red/black 2nd-run thin-gapped flying v which i've banged off of essentially every material known to man. i brought 6-7 cotton strings, some thick lube, and a spare wide bearing in case i wanted to pretend i'm any good at 'regular' 1a. you don't 'need' as much as you think you do.
packing a car for a trip like this is an art form, and i worked diligently to appease the spirits of my pepere (who's ability to pack an rv was legend) and my dad (who is still very-much alive). when i was little, my parents would ditch the middle seat of our minivan, throw down a blanket, and my brother and i would basically roll around the middle of the vehicle playing with action figures, reading, or drawing for the duration. apparently, the authorities take seatbelts somewhat more seriously now, and to my kids' chagrin, we had to have them in actual seats (most of the time). though it took me an hour or two, i eventually had the odyssey packed tightly and efficiently, with full access to food and toys and total rear-view visibility. no crevice went unused.
... except, apparently, the one i used to stow these yo-yo's a few weeks ago.
one time, i asked my buddy jack 'how do you 'display' your yo-yo's?', to which he responded, 'at this point, it's really more of a 'containment' issue.' i can relate to that. i have a 'yo-yo room', but inevitably several escape or are relocated by the kids, and i find them in unexpected places, like unbidden gifts. a few weeks ago, i was driving to the midnight showing of the new harry potter movie, and given the fact that i'd be waiting in line for a solid hour, i brought a pair of 3-in-1's out to the car with the idea that i'd work on/show off my mediocre 2-handed while waiting to get into the theater. i stuffed them in one of my new van's 75-odd 'compartments for stuff', and promptly forgot about them. i remember wanting to go retrieve them, but not enough to sacrifice a good seat. the movie was entertaining (AND late), so i just didn't think of them again until i looked for the pressure gauge in iowa.
it was nice to have these guys on the trip. i didn't intend to do any looping (aside from the retro-regens and lunar-landing variations that i always do with the v), and no matter how modern 1a develops, people - particularly the very old and very young - will always see 2-handed loops as the pinnacle of yo-yo magic. i worked with these just as much as i played my flying v over the past 2 weeks, learning no new tricks, but continuing to develop skills i've been working for years. i love how LONG it takes to be good at 2a, especially with wood & cotton. with the on-again, off-again effort i've turned in, wyyc-worthy abilities would take as long to create as the teton mountain range. but i also love that once you arrive at pretty-ok, decently-shaped, consistent loops... the simplest nuances become utterly satisfying.
somewhat surprisingly, i played a lot of yo-yo on this trip. on trails, at gas stations... even knee-deep in a stream. i like playing outside under the sky. if you've never done 'shoot the moon' under the actual moon, you should try it (but don't clock yourself). playing a wood yo-yo while out in the woods is also a feeling worth experiencing. i miss being at worlds with my friends, but it also occurs to me that the real center of 'the yo-yo universe' is not the world yo-yo contest in orlando, but wherever we happen to find ourselves playing. it's reasonable to see my friends on the feed and miss them, but this was such an unforgettable trip, and i got to explore (and yo-yo) in so many surreally beautiful places that it's a little silly to be glum about it, even for a second. it's hard to be away, but sometimes you have to make yo-yoing 'in the world' just as meaningful as yo-yoing 'at worlds'.
congrats to everyone, and safe travels home.